Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Authority (L 180)

1. The Standards Committee for Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority (BMKFA) met on Monday 7 March 2011 to consider a report prepared by its Head of Legal Services: "Localism Bill and the Standards Regime.

2. BMKFA is a Fire and Rescue authority which was created in 1996 by a "combination scheme" made under the Fire Services Act 1947. It comprises 17 Councillors appointed by the constituent authorities of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes; and 4 co-opted members. It is a "relevant authority" for the purposes of the Localism Bill

3. The Committee discussed the changes proposed to the Ethical Standards Regime by the Localism Bill on the understanding that the Scrutiny Committee would continue to receive and consider submissions received by 10 March 2011.

4. The Standards Committee resolved that I should write to you to set out the comments of the Standards Committee in relation to this matter.

5. I am the independent Chairman of the BMKFA Standards Committee and its submissions are set out below.

6. We note the requirement in Clause 15 for relevant authorities to ensure that members and co-opted members maintain high standards of conduct but we regret the disbanding of Standards for England without something more appropriate replacing it.

7. Locally the public expect high standards from Councillors and we believe they will be confused and concerned that the mechanism for ensuring this is being dismantled with no indication of a way forward for the future.

8. In order for there to be transparency and consistency across the country a national code of conduct needs to be available together with appropriate open procedures. Failures to meet the standard of conduct expected must be communicated to the local electorate and appropriate and proportionate sanctions applied.

9. All of the above can be handled locally but will need some recognition and input from the Government. Simply disbanding all current arrangements and then offering one vague directive does not assist relevant authorities or promote good conduct. In view of the recent parliamentary expenses scandal and its affect on the electorate this Bill displays very poor judgement.

March 2011